Slice, dice and make nice (Day 210)…

cutting board

Now that I’m making an effort to eat only local, organic produce, I figured I should start treating my fruit and veg with more respect — so I’ve been washing everything carefully and bringing out my fancy chef’s knife to make sure it all gets sliced and diced with expert precision. Unfortunately, expert precision isn’t so easy when you’re working on a wobbly, splintered, dried-out, five-year-old cutting board from Ikea.

I decided to get a new one, but wanted to make sure I made a good, green choice. Plastic ones meant no trees would be chopped down, but then plastic isn’t exactly an eco-friendly material. I’d read a lot about bamboo cutting boards, but they can be expensive, plus I couldn’t find any near me and didn’t want to order something online to be delivered by truck.

Then, my culinary guardian angel — Tony Vrbanatz of the Kitchen and Glass Place — came to the rescue.

He recommended the Epicurean Natural Richlite cutting board (above), which has been popular in restaurants for over 30 years and is made from an environmentally friendly wood fiber laminate.

It’s lightweight, dishwasher safe (not that this matters to me, at least until March), won’t dull knives, is temperature resistant to 350 degrees, nonporous and prohibits bacteria, odors and staining (although I have yet to administer the final test: beets).

Most importantly, it seems as though it’ll be incredibly durable, which means it won’t need replacing for years and years to come. Of course, there are plenty of other options out there, and if you’re lucky enough to have a granite countertop, you don’t even need a chopping board. Still, I’m enjoying my new cutting surface, and I think my carrots are, too.

13 Responses to Slice, dice and make nice (Day 210)…

  1. hateration says:

    I have a bamboo cutting board I bought in Chinatown for like $10.

    Plastic cutting boards will also ruin your knives!!

  2. Greenpa says:

    Anytime you start talking about knives, and sharpness, you are venturing into the realms of myth and passion. Fun, but hard to sort out! One thing I do know- granite will dull any knife! yike!

    The bamboo stuff is totally gorgeous; but I wonder HOW they’re making it. First you have to harvest it; then cut it up into precise pieces- then it has to be GLUED together; somehow; with lots of pressure. And boy are they glued. Those processes HAVE to be taking up a lot of energy; and glues are notorious for toxicity… what do they use?

    It worries me. I’d totally love for bamboo boards to be really sustainable; but I have yet to see any analysis of the entire process. (then it has to be shipped- from China…)

    🙂 ah, if only the world were simple. I’ve lusted after bamboo boards in my heart…

  3. Beth Terry says:

    Hi. I looked up this board on the Epicurean Cutting Surfaces web site. It says that the boards are “made up of layers of paper that are then soaked with phenolic resin and cured to create a solid sheet. During the production cycle the layers of paper are gradually bonded with each other to create solid, durable sheets.”

    I didn’t know what phenolic resin was, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. Apparently, it is a combinations of phenol and formaldehyde and is what Bakelite is made from. Bakelite is the first plastic invented.

    Anyone know about the safety/toxicity of that chemical? Like Greenpa said, this product too is made with a lot of pressure and probably takes a lot of energy to make.

    How about a solid olive wood cutting board treated with nothing more than “a natural sunflower coating.” I don’t know anything about these boards. Just googled “natural solid cutting board -bamboo.”


  4. greencore says:

    I accidentally stumbled onto your blog. Firstly, great job. I see all kinds of megalomania about green and sustainable, it’s refreshing to find someone who takes such a pragmatic approach and recognizes that many of us taking the daily steps that we can afford and sustain will truly make the difference. (off soapbox now.)
    Cutting boards?
    Granite will definetely dull your knives, but for the benefit of dulling knives, you get a continual release of radon… fortunately i’m not lucky enough to have granite.
    As far as the Epicurean cutting board, the performance characteristics are great as you have already seen, and paper is definetely sustainable, but Beth is correct about phenolics and their history going back to bakelite. This is not particularly green. Plastic = Petroleum.
    There are other products however that use the same tecnology of pressing paper, (although they use post-consumer recycled paper), and instead of the traditional phenolics, they use a bio-fiber resin. They also make an entire countertop. Takes a little looking but the truth is out there…

  5. Len says:

    As a scientist, I always get a chuckle out of “green” products. Phenol/formaldehyde products are hardly green, as greencore points out. Could you post the company that uses bio-fiber resin. The word resin gives me a chill. How about a wood cutting board?
    Here is an interesting study on wood vs plastic boards
    Lastly – phenol, a benzene/coal product

  6. sophie says:

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  7. Tara Enever says:

    My family recently bought Epicurean cutting boards as Christmas gifts, thinking we were buying a good green product. However, once we washed them (before using), they smelled so bad, we have put them in plastic bags until we can hopefully return them.

    I say ‘hopefully’, as we bought them at the William Ashley Annual Warehouse Sale in Toronto and not only do they stipulate ‘No refunds or exchanges’ on Warehouse Sale items, William Ashley proper have discontinued selling the boards! If they are so good, why are they no longer selling them? I wonder… Yet, I have not heard anyone mention their boards smelling(either on here or anywhere else).

    I thought my board smelled like a barn (hay and strong urine odor); my sister and brother-in-law thought theirs smelled like chemicals. Either way, there is NO way we would put anything we intended to eat on these boards! We want our money back!

    Anyone have anything to say about the odor?

    • David says:

      I agree about the foul smell. I’ve tried to use my Epicurean board for several weeks, but the smell never went away, no matter how often we washed it. I think it must be the phenol/formaldehyde compound somehow becoming volatile … Wikipedia says the resin made from those two highly-dangerous carcinogens is harmless, but why don’t I believe them? My nose tells me this material is toxic, and I think I’ll believe my nose. The last straw came today when I laid a piece of toast on the board to slice it — picked up the toast, and it too smelled foul! The board is going back.

  8. terry says:

    i asked a store about the borads…that i got one from and wanted a few more…they also are not carrying them…and why? the prices have gone up…so the same board i paid 40$ for is not 55$ish….so i guess there are going to get harder to find…she said its as the canadian $$$ is lower again its to costly to bring this stuff in…so i just bought a wiked oversize bamboo board

  9. I must say, I could not agree with you in 100%, but that’s just my IMHO, which indeed could be wrong.
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  10. Elizabeth says:

    Just bought an Epicurean board too and after washing it noticed a strong formaldehyde smell. Hope Bed Bath and Beyond takes it back. Yuck!

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